Federal weapons prosecutions jump


Federal weapons prosecutions have increased substantially, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), a a non-partisan research organization associated with Syracuse University.

The data shows some alarming trends, especially at the top ten judicial districts. Enforcement in the Mobile, Alabama district jumped to more than four times the national average.

Like most number crunchers, TRAC does not interpret the data or speculate on the cause.

Here’s an excerpt of the report. You can access the entire report here.


Recent Jump in Federal Weapons Prosecutions


The latest available data from the Justice Department reveal a substantial jump in the number of federal weapons prosecutions during March and April 2013. For the first two months of this calendar year these counts had hovered around 500, down from the average level of 648 during the last fiscal year. But in March they rebounded to 673 prosecutions — up 30.7 percent. In April they rose another 3.6 percent to 697. See Figure 1.

Figure 1. Number of Federal Weapons Prosecutions Filed

Figure 1. Number of Federal Weapons Prosecutions Filed

The comparisons of the number of defendants charged with weapons-related offenses are based on case-by-case information obtained by TRAC under the Freedom of Information Act from the Executive Office for United States Attorneys. See TRAC’s earlier report for longer term trends.

Questions about the intensity of weapons enforcement have long been an issue in the national debate over proposals to strengthen federal gun laws. In February for example, at the height of this year’s debate in the Senate, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association Wayne LaPierre cited the Justice Department enforcement data presented by TRAC in arguing that instead of new laws “[w]e need to enforce the thousands of gun laws currently on the books.”

Top Ranked Judicial Districts

During the first seven months of FY 2013, the Southern District of Alabama (Mobile) ranked first in the country in terms of its rate of federal weapons prosecutions. Relative to its population, this U.S. Attorney’s office was more than four times more active than the national average, with 114 prosecutions as compared with 23 prosecutions per one million people in the United States as a whole. The Western District of Tennessee (Memphis) was in second place.

In terms of the sheer numbers rather than rates, the Western District of Missouri (Kansas City) has prosecuted 151 defendants for weapons offenses — the highest number in the nation. It was in third place if the size of its population was also taken into account.

Recent entries to the top 10 list of federal weapon prosecutions per capita were the Middle District of North Carolina (Greensboro) and Washington, D.C., now ranked sixth and ninth, respectively. See Table 1 for rest of the ten most active districts.

Leading Investigative Agencies

The lead investigative agency for weapons prosecutions through April 2013 was “Justice – Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives” accounting for 71.3 percent of prosecutions referred.

Figure 2. Prosecutions by Investigative Agency

Figure 2. Prosecutions by Investigative Agency

Top Ranked Lead Charges

Among these top ten lead charges, the one showing the greatest projected increase in prosecutions — up 44.4  percent — compared to one year ago was Title 18 U.S.C Section 2113 that involves “Bank robbery and incidental crimes “. This was the same statute that had the largest projected increase — 1229 percent — when compared with five years ago.

Again among the top ten lead charges, the one showing the sharpest projected decline in prosecutions compared to one year ago — down 59.8  percent — was “Conspiracy to commit offense or to defraud US ” (Title 18 U.S.C Section 371 ). This was the same statute that had the largest projected decrease — 52.7 percent — when compared with five years ago.

Report Date: June 10, 2013

About Author

Lee Williams can’t remember a time in his life when he wasn’t shooting. Before becoming a journalist, Lee served in the Army and worked as a police officer. He’s earned more than a dozen journalism awards as a reporter, and three medals of valor as a cop. He is an NRA-certified law enforcement firearms instructor, an avid tactical shooter and a training junkie. When he’s not busy as a senior investigative reporter, he is usually shooting his AKs, XDs and CZs. If you don’t run into him at a local gun range, you can reach him at 941.284.8553, by email, or by regular mail to 1777 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. You can follow him on Twitter: @HT_GunWriter and on Facebook @The Gun Writer.

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